"Go on, Banana!"
The words are still ringing in my ears. I've just completed my fifth Great North Run, this time dressed as a fairtrade banana for Traidcraft.
As an incentive to sponsors, I promised that if I raised £300, I would wear a banana costume for the full 13.2 miles.
So how was it? Well, if you're ever going to do a charity fun run, I would highly recommend the fancy dress route, and the sillier the better.
Sponsors like it more; they appreciate the effort on your part and, more significantly (in terms of my friends at least!), that in return for their money they get to enjoy your humiliation.
The crowds appreciate it too - I got lots of attention. Mostly it was the delightfully straightforward shout preferred by the under 10's of simply "Banana!!!."
In fact I calculated (and I had plenty of time to work this out) that on average I got some kind of cheer every 15 seconds during the run, which is nearly 1,000 times!
Of course it is also funny planning the outfit and making your way to the course. A fellow Traidcraft fancy dress runner said that he couldn't do a test run in his costume (Kermit) because he and his girlfriend were giggling too much!
Obviously, there is an added endurance factor of a cumbersome, comical costume. In this instance the face hole kept slipping over my eyes and the banana stalk was bouncing around, which was like being patted on the head repeatedly for two hours!
However, it was certainly worth it. The proof is in the (fairtrade banana-flavoured) pudding; I raised more money than I've ever raised single-handedly and I finished in my best time, pushed on by all the cheering.
I also gave hundreds, if not thousands, of people a new story to tell down the pub - that they beat/were overtaken by a banana in the Great North Run. (For the record, I was overtaken near the finish by Superman, but that's to be expected of course)
In total we had a team of around 60 runners raising money for Traidcraft Exchange this year which is fantastic.
It's a special event, more than just for the scale, and the challenge and the money raised. I can't quite explain the draw but it keeps me coming back year after year.
If you'd like to try it, contact Jo Wallis in our fundraising team. And, by the way, I shall clean the banana suit and return it to Traidcraft so it's all yours if the idea, ahem, 'apeels'.